IN LIGHT of Donnie Nietes’s successful campaign in Mexico, I posed a query to ALA promotions president Michael Aldeguer on whether the WBO minimum weight champ has already equaled the popularity of stablemates Rey “Boom-Boom” Bautista, AJ Banal and Milan Melindo.

The dapper Sacred Heart School-Jesuits alumnus replied in the affirmative, citing the crowd that mobbed them when “Ahas” arrived in Manila.

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IRONIC. Indeed, in the sense that despite holding the only championship hardware in their fabled gym, it is only now that Donnie can rightfully relish all the voodoo and hype associated with pro-boxing.

It had to take him bringing his title to far-off Mexico and defending it three times before the local boxing public could take notice that “Ahas” is a legitimate boxing star, worthy of our attention.

But now that justice has been rightfully served, when Bautista and Melindo headline the mammoth boxing card penciled for them this Saturday at the Cebu City Waterfront Hotel, they better keep in mind that the boxing fans are now probably more critical, more demanding of their performances to justify the attention they have been getting.

With the retirement of the accomplished Z Gorres, there is now a legitimate question: who is rightfully ALA Gym’s flagship fighter?

I know that they treat each other like brothers, probably even more if there is such a thing, but I think a little friendly rivalry between the ALA boys will in the end be beneficial to everybody.

PASCAL EDGES DAWSON. Due to space constraints, I was unable to squeeze in my discussion on last week’s light heavyweight championship bout between Jean Pascal and Chad Dawson.

I predicted Dawson to start slow, lose the early rounds, then gather steam and eventually win by decision.

Well, Dawson started slow alright. Too slow in fact that he only woke up at around the ninth round and by then, Pascal had already established a sizable lead.

In the 10th round, he rocked Pascal in the middle of the ring by blasting him with an uppercut, but was unable to capitalize fully as Pascal countered from time to time, and covered up when Dawson started to flurry.

It didn’t help matters when Dawson suffered a cut in the 11th round which resulted in the stoppage of the fight and necessitated a resort to the score cards which Pascal handily won.

I guess it’s back to the drawing board for “Bad” Chad (29-1, 17KOs) who suffered the first loss of his career.

This setback couldn’t have come at a worse time when he was just on the cusp of boxing superstardom with a bevy of attractive fights beckoning to him.

To compound to his woes, Chad is at odds with his manager Mike Criscio who stated that Dawson’s training for the Pascal bout was a joke.

If it was, it must have been a “bad” joke…

HE SAID IT. “Man, what kind of (expletive) sport is this if y’all call a guy barely over .500 a legend? If this guy is a legend, what am I? I’m going to knock this (expletive’s) head off. I’ll hit him so hard his grandmother’s going to feel it.

I come from boxing. Boxing ain’t no joke and your legend is about to find that out the hard way.”—James Toney, who will make his UFC debut this Sunday at UFC 118 against MMA legend Randy “The Natural” Couture.

LAST ROUNDS. Are on my niece Bianca Nicole Q. Hubahib and top-notch cardiologist Dr. Walter Calvo Acuzar who celebrate their birthdays this week. Cheers!